UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Confidence is high in the New York Red Bulls locker room right now, but changes to the team that has won back-to-back games via shutout are looming as a pair of regulars near their return.
The Red Bulls will receive an added boost for their Wednesday match at Red Bull Arena vs. the Houston Dynamo (7 pm ET, watch LIVE online), as Rafa Márquez and Roy Miller will be available for selection after returning from suspension and injury, respectively.
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The duo might be eagerly welcomed back due to the long list of injuries New York currently have, but their comebacks mean head coach Hans Backe will have to replace players from a starting lineup that has produced 1-0 wins over the New England Revolution and LA Galaxy.
“[LA] was a tough, tough game for them,” Backe told reporters following Monday’s practice. “They run a lot, they’ve done it in two games now. The flight to LA is also a killer. Everyone today is very, very fatigued, so let’s see tomorrow how fresh they are and what kind of legs they have.”
Miller’s return almost surely means Connor Lade will return to the bench after starting three consecutive games at left back. The rookie has fared relatively well there, but Backe said he does not envision using Miller anywhere but in his customary role on the left side of the defense.
Where Márquez fits in, meanwhile, is a little less clear. Backe said the Mexican international will not play in defense, and he will instead resume playing in the midfield.
While that would normally translate to Márquez playing a more defensive role and pushing Dax McCarty into a more advanced position, that might not be the case given McCarty’s performances as a lone destroyer these last two weeks.
“I always said and thought that [McCarty’s] strength was from the halfway line and forward,” Backe said. “But now perhaps playing a little bit deeper he has the whole picture of the field in front of him.
“His passing, he only had two, three unforced errors in this game [against LA]. Overall, defending phenomenal, so let’s see if that is perhaps his position for the future.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.